Earlier this week my article, “Practical Guide to GPP”, was published at T-Nation.com. If you haven’t read it yet, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. Go check it out now and I’ll send you five email high-fives! Here is the link———-> Practical Guide to GPP.
Being that the article was published on T-Nation, I wrote it mainly for powerlifters, bodybuildiers and general gym rats. But I explained in the article that–for athletes–GPP is any training not directly related to practicing their skill for a given sport. Sorry–bros–but box squatting isn’t specific to football, no matter how desperately we want it to be. That’s why I call GPP phases designed for athletes the Movement Prep phase. The work being done is still general, but it is being done to increase the capacity to do more general work that eventually transfers into specific sport training.
Since I wrote the article for T-Nation, one aspect of movement prep/GPP programs that I omitted is including plyometric and jump training, not because I don’t think it’s important for everyone, but for the brevity’s sake.
Preparing to do a lot of jumping, landing and redirecting is crucial for keeping athletes healthy as they are exposed to greater volumes of reactive training. With that in mind, we need to build jumping and training with reactive means into our programs early in the training year.
While this is a topic smothered in controversy and conflicting opinions, planning a movement prep plyo progam is a lot like diving in for your first kiss. Ditch the nerves and just make your move. You will end up with a lot more progress and a lot less hand holding.
Make your move by incorporating these three basic types of plyometrics during your movement prep phase:
1) Deceleration Training: There is no sense in building a Ferrari if it doesn’t have any breaks. Before we move on to depth jumps, repeating bounds and lateral plyos we have to teach the body to slow down. The first step is learning to get in a good athletic position.
Check out the picture on the left. Josh Hull–my good friend and BSP client–is pictured during his days as a linebacker at Penn State. Have a gander at Josh’s stance; his chest is up, his hips are back and his head is forward. This is the position we want our athletes in as they decelerate. From this position the hamstrings–not the quads–can be loaded to slow the athlete down. Not only is loading the hamstrings during deceleration safer for the knees, but it also puts the athlete in a better position to change direction–allowing the hips to initiate movement.
Learning to squat properly is the first step in learning to decelerate properly, but from there we can use specific drills to learn force absorption. My favorite drill to include early in a program to teach deceleration is the low altitude drop.
Before having an athlete frop from a box, teach them to land an altitude drop on flat ground. Have them stand on a level surface and drop quickly into an athletic position. For a good example of what this should look like, check out the video below.
The next step is the actual altitude drop. Depending on your athlete’s age and training history, set up a box that is between 12 and 20 inches. Have them stand on top of the box–and with one foot–step off of the box and land in a good deceleration position. The landing position should look exactly like the one in the video above. It’s important to coach your athletes not to jump because this can teach bad form and greatly increases the amount of force that they have to absorb from the fall. If they flail like Rip Taylor on the way down, assign them fifty push-ups and get them back on the box. I’m just kidding! (or am I?)
Coach your athletes to land initially on the balls of their feet and transition to their whole food being in contact with the ground. This helps ensure that he or she would be “sitting back” so that the hips are in good position and the hamstrings are loaded. Otherwise you might witness a Gumby-esque shooting forward of the knees. Not good.
Progress by using higher boxes, but don’t go above the athlete’s waist–especially if it is a young athlete. Three to five sets of three to five reps is sufficient volume. This is a basic application of shock training. Getting carried away during the movement prep phase is unnecessary.
2) Jumping Rope: We don’t often think about it– because it is something chidren do while they play–but jumping rope is a great plyometric exercise. Not only does jumping rope teach coordination and footwork, but there is continual absorption and redirection of force as the feet hit the ground and the jumper returns to the air. That’s the definition of reactive exercise!
As a result, muscle elasticity is trained and so is low-level power endurance; two slices of bread in a good for you muscle sandwich. What’s the meat, you ask? I don’t know. But I’m sure the dogs in this video could help you find it.
Isn’t that just adorable?
Make sure your athletes are primarily springing from the ankles as they jump rope. This is a great drill for teaching ankle extension mechanics. Bending the knees too much will limit the work the ankles have to do and reduce the training effect.
3) Box Jumps: After your athletes learn how to land teach them how to take off. Box jumps are a great jumping drill for a movement prep phase because they allow for an explosive jump and kinesthetic differentiation. This means by judging the height of the box an athlete has to determine how hard they have to jump to get on top of it. Physical and cognitive training? Brains and braun? Socks and sandals?
Yikes! Jerusalem Cruisers plus tube socks equals abomination. But training for power and spatial awareness at the same time prepares an athlete for an increase in future training complexity, making the transfer from the weight-room to the athletic field much easier.
Box jumps are also great as prelude into loaded power training movements such as dynamic effort squats and dynamic effort deadlifts. Learning how to be explosive with only bodyweight is important before moving powerfully under load. Can’t move powerfully with your body weight? Good luck doing it with a bar on your back.
When you program box jumps, keep the reps low–between three and five. The sets, however, can be as high as ten. If you plan on using box jumps in a higher volume format, make sure the reps keep their integrity. If not, poor motor patterns will be ingrained and you won’t elicit the desired training effect.
Great stuff! Now you’ve three simple ways to make your movement preparation programs better by adding plyometrics and jump training. By starting with the basics early in a program we can progress into complex reactive–and chaotic–exercise. But as I said in the T-Nation article, remember how important preparation is for success.